There is much to look forward to during the holiday season. Family gatherings, community events and holiday-themed activities can quickly fill your calendar.
But if you feel anxious as the holiday season approaches, you are not alone. A survey from BetterHelp reported nearly half of Americans were worried about their mental health during the holiday season last year. While others look forward to festivities with friends and family, some may experience worsened stress, anxiety and depression this winter.
While the holiday season is a time to spread cheer, individual circumstances can burden mental health and well-being around the holidays. According to a poll from the American Psychiatric Association, more than half of healthcare workers say their stress generally increases during the holidays. Younger adults are also consistently more likely than older adults to be anxious about social and family dynamics during the holidays.
There are steps that can be taken to help manage mental well-being and contribute to a more enjoyable holiday season.
Maintain healthy habits
With schools releasing students for winter break, families traveling to visit each other, and social events and activities taking place in the community, it’s possible to fall out of a healthy routine from changes in your schedule. Maintaining healthy habits during the holiday season–such as a consistent sleep schedule and regular exercise–can help relieve some of the stress.
Connect with others
Staying in touch with friends and family can help improve your ability to recover from stress, anxiety and depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, social connection with others can positively affect mental health, foster a sense of community and belonging, and promote healthy habits. Focusing on strengthening relationships with others can contribute to a more cheerful season–especially if feeling isolated or lonely.
While family relationships can be complicated, it’s important to celebrate loved ones and accomplishments from the year. While you may experience feelings of pressure from others or yourself during this season of social gatherings, focusing on what brings you joy can help to relieve some of the stress.
The holidays can also be a time to reflect. With new year’s resolutions approaching, celebrating progress and achievements from the past year can help you look forward to next year. With these positives in mind, the holiday season might become a more enjoyable experience.
Twenty-one percent of adults are experiencing a mental illness, equivalent to over 50 million Americans, according to a 2023 report from Mental Health America. The holidays may worsen feelings of anxiety and depression for some individuals.
This season can be different by maintaining healthy habits and prioritizing positive relationships with others.
Kristen Evans-Hardy, LMSW, is a Program Director at Southwest Behavioral & Health Services. For more information about SB&H, visit https://www.sbhservices.org/.